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Gibela, PRASA host media site visit to Brazil for sneak preview of the assembly line for the first South African commuter trains

First cutting-edge South African commuter train takes shape

Gibela and PRASA executives are leading a visit by SA media to Alstom Transport's train-assembly plant in Lapa, Brazil to show progress on the building of the first of 600 new commuter trains for PRASA. The train is one of 20 to be built in Brazil. In terms of the contract between PRASA and Gibela, it was agreed that the latter would manufacture 20 trains in Brazil to gradually introduce new rolling stock in priority corridors and, as part of an ambitious skills transfer programme, train South African engineers. The balance of 580 trains will be built in South Africa, by South Africans, at a new plant to be established in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg

Lapa, Brazil: Barely seven months since the financial close on new South African railway company Gibela's R51 billion contract with Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) for the manufacture of 600 state-of-the-art commuter trains for delivery over the next 10 years, manufacturing of the first new train is well under way.

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Addressing a group of South African journalists on a visit to the PRASA-dedicated assembly line at Alstom Transport's train-manufacturing plant in Lapa, Brazil, Gibela Chief Executive Officer Marc Granger characterised completion, on schedule, of the car body shells for the first of 20 trains being built in Brazil as a "significant milestone".

A car body shell is the metal structure of a railway vehicle and consists of four main parts – the underframe, two side walls, the roof and two train extremities which are brought together in a jig and welded on to each other. In the case of the PRASA train, these parts are made of stainless steel − which has been shipped from South Africa. The body shell weighs around nine tonnes and its assembly takes 1 200 man hours to complete.

"This is a significant milestone in our business because it is the vital precursor to the fitting phase that will see more than 1 000 different components spanning interior fittings, electrical equipment, traction motors, bogies, cables, pipes, air conditioning and doors coming together within the shells.

"The final product will be the first complete PRASA train of an overall fleet of 600. It will be shipped to South Africa by the last quarter of 2015 for an intensive testing programme before entering revenue service by June 2016.

"In so doing, it will usher in a new age of commuter railway transport in South Africa and will steer the country towards achieving its goal for an integrated public transport system and infrastructure as enshrined in the country's National Development Plan.

"The Gibela and Alstom teams, in South Africa and around the world, are strongly committed to delivering the trains on time and to the complete satisfaction of the customer, PRASA," said Granger.

The Lapa plant, which spans 46 900m² employs 800 employees, is the Alstom centre of excellence for the manufacturing of stainless steel cars.

Piet Sebola, Group Executive: Strategic Asset Development of PRASA, said: "Indeed, significant progress has been made; our implementation programme is in full swing. We are well on-track to receive our first train in November 2015. Witnessing the PRASA production line with the first car body shell at completion phase is exciting. In the months ahead this world-class manufacturing activities will be performed in South Africa by our own engineers and artisans. It is in line with our plans to develop a new generation of railway engineers and artisans. We are focusing our energy on the creation of a railway service that forms an integral part of the renewal of the transport system to provide effective and efficient public transport to all South Africans."

While the manufacture of the Brazil portion of the rolling stock is underway, rapid progress is also being made on South African soil. Gibela now employs 78 people and 16 South African railway engineers are almost halfway through an 18-month training programme on rolling stock design and technologies at several of Alstom's plants in Europe.

Meanwhile, Gibela together with PRASA and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has started the environmental-impact assessment studies and administrative processes and requirements related to re-zoning and township establishment ahead of the start of construction of the new manufacturing facility by March 2015.

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